Breast Milk Storage: Best Practices to preserve
Breastfeeding is a precious and natural way to nourish your baby, providing them with essential nutrients and immune-boosting antibodies. For moms who pump and store breast milk, following proper storage and preparation techniques is vital to maintain its safety and quality for your baby's well-being.
Why Proper Breast Milk Storage Matters Storing breast milk correctly helps preserve its nutritional value and minimizes the risk of bacterial contamination. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ) emphasizes that various factors influence how long breast milk can be safely stored, including milk volume, room temperature during expression, temperature fluctuations in the refrigerator and freezer, and overall cleanliness.
Human Milk Storage Guidelines To ensure the safe storage of your breast milk, here are the recommended guidelines:
Storage Locations and Temperatures
- Countertop (25 °C/77°F or colder): Up to 4 hours
- Refrigerator (4 °C/ 40°F or colder): Up to 4 days
- Freezer (-18 °C/ 0°F or colder):
- Within 6 months is best
- Up to 12 months is acceptable
Safe Thawing of Breast Milk
- Always thaw the oldest breast milk first (first-in, first-out).
- Thaw breast milk in the refrigerator overnight, under warm or lukewarm water, or with lukewarm running water.
- Never thaw or heat breast milk in a microwave, as it can destroy nutrients and create hot spots that can harm your baby.
- Never refreeze already thawed milk
Safe Cleaning of Infant Feeding Items and Pumping Equipment
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before expressing or handling breast milk. If not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Use breast milk storage bags or clean, food-grade containers made of glass or plastic with tight-fitting lids.
- Avoid using disposable bottle liners or plastic bags not intended for breast milk storage.
- Label each container with the date of expression.
- Avoid storing breast milk in the refrigerator or freezer door to prevent temperature fluctuations.
- Store freshly expressed breast milk in small amounts (50 to 100 ml) to minimize waste.
- Leave about one inch of space at the top of the container to account for breast milk expansion during freezing.
- When delivering breast milk to a child care provider, label the container with the child's name and follow any specific labeling and storage requirements.
Feeding Expressed Breast Milk
- Breast milk can be served at room temperature or cold; it does not need to be warmed.
- If you choose to warm the breast milk, place the sealed container in a bowl of warm water or hold it under warm, running water. Avoid heating it directly on the stove or in the microwave.
- Swirl the breast milk to mix the fat, which may have separated.
Following these research-backed guidelines for breast milk storage and handling ensures that your baby receives the full benefits of "liquid gold." By prioritizing safety and cleanliness, you provide your baby with the best nourishment and support their healthy development.